"I tell you, were it not a potential violation of copyright law (which I am already probably taking excessive liberties with), I would be of a mind to post the entirety of Dom Lorenzo Scupoli’s The Spiritual Combat. This book is phenomenal. I have been reading The Imitation of Christ for years, to the extent that the “effect,” so to speak, has begun to wear off. This book might be a suitable replacement.
A discourse below from Chapter 43 of The Spiritual Combat, on the tendency of our corrupt natures, prompted by the devil, to fall into rash judgment, and the remedy for this evil:
Smug self-satisfaction is responsible for another great disorder, which is rash judgment. This vice, which we not only encourage in ourselves, but infuse into others, springs from and is nourished by pride; and in proportion to our acceptance of it is our growing conceit and danger of further delusions by the devil. For by degrees we assume for ourselves what we detract from others, foolishly imagining ourselves exempt from the sins for which we so readily condemn our neighbors. [I would be a liar if I said I did not fall into this temptation all too frequently.]
The enemy of our souls no sooner discovers this malicious tendency, but he immediately employs all his artifices to make us attentive to the failings of others, and to magnify those failings out of all proportion. He goes to ineffable depths in making us aware of our neighbor’s most trivial peccadillo, in the absence of a more glaring fault.
Since, therefore, he is so viciously clever and intent upon our ruin, we must be no less vigilant in discovering and defeating his designs. When he suggests the sins of others to us, we must banish all such thoughts, and if he persists in Satan03tricking us into rash judgments, we are to cultivate a deep abhorrence for such malicious insinuations. Let us remember that we are not ordinarily authorized to judge others, but if we are, how seldom equity guides us, blinded as we are by prejudice and passion, and inclined to impute the worst to others in their thoughts and actions.
The most efficacious remedy of this evil is a constant awareness of our own wretchedness, for when we find so much room for improvement in ourselves we have little inclination to judge and condemn others. Moreover, in sedulously seeking out our own shortcomings, we shall free our minds from a certain malignity which is the source of rash judgment. For whoever unjustly condemns his neighbor has good reason for suspecting himself guilty of the same or worse crime, inasmuch as vicious men are prone to think others like themselves. [Meekness begets willingness to accept suffering, which suffering begets humility, which humility begets charity, which begets sanctity. Meekness and humility are the basis for all the virtues. Pride is the death of virtue.]
When, therefore, we find ourselves inclined to condemn others, let us inwardly accuse ourselves with this just reproof: “Blind and presumptuous wretch, how dare you rashly examine your neighbors actions – you who have the same if not greater sins to answer for?” [I think St. Teresa of Avila recommended a similar exclamation whenever we are tempted to find sin in others.] Thus in turning these weapons against ourselves, wolgang-the-devilwhat might have been injurious to our neighbor becomes beneficial to us.
Even if a neighbor’s fault be publicly known, let charity suggest some excuse. Let us believe there are some hidden virtues, for the preservation of which God is pleased to permit the publicized deficiency; and let us hope that the fault in which God suffers him to remain for a time, may eventually bring the erring one to true self-knowledge, that being despised by others, he may learn the lesson of true humility. Such a defeat is really a victory.
Where the sin, besides being commonly known, is also of the utmost gravity, and the sinner hardened in impenitence, we should raise our hearts to heaven in deference to the inscrutable wisdom of God. For we should be mindful that many have emerged from the depths of depravity to become Saints, while others molochhave fallen from angelic heights of perfection to satanic depths of sinfulness.
[This is a powerful reminder. Even those who may have attained great degrees of perfection are always very capable of a terrible fall. Pride goeth before the fall, and humility is the basis of all virtues. Or, wretched pride!]
These reflections should convince every thinking person that carping criticism should begin with oneself. If one finds himself favorably disposed towards his neighbor, it is owing to the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, whereas his rash judgments, dislike and contempt of others, owe their rise to his own malice and the promptings of the devil. [It is important to note one caveat. When error abounds, as it does now, we do owe it, in charity, to our neighbors, to refute that error.
Error is so commonplace now it almost constantly masquerades as truth, and is accepted by most souls as such. In such a state, there will be many times when we simply must correct the errors that abound in so many places. But we must be extremely careful in so doing, to attack only the error and to try, to the greatest extent possible, not to impute guilt to those who have fallen into erroneous beliefs and practices.]
Let us remember then that, if we find ourselves too attentive to the failings of others, we must not cease until we have entirely erased them from memory.
Powerful, and very difficult, stuff. It is so contrary to our natures to accept blame for ourselves, even when innocent, and to always excuse faults in others! Lord, how far have we fallen from how gloriously You created our first parents! Have mercy on us, we are lost souls with the hideous stain of Original Sin and we are awash in a horribly corrupt world! Sustain us with Your Grace and convert our hearts!